Preface:Meeting the ‘others’

It’s not really a story, it’s a question: What happens if we meet the ‘others’?A young woman recalling being raped at the age of five.  Another retelling the story of how she found her drug-addicted father lying dead on the kitchen floor (having shot himself).  A young man describing how, a few weeks ago, his teenaged cousin had been stabbed to death over a territorial dispute.I should have known what to expect when I arrived at the auditions for The Foolish Young Man, having witnessed the Grassmarket Project’s first stunning production in Edinburgh fifteen years before.  That play – Glad – was a powerful drama on homelessness that drew its power from the cast’s convincingly on-the-edge performance – convincing because most of the performers were indeed homeless people.  Director Jeremy Weller and his artistic team deal in what has been called theatre verité – weaving art out of the experiences, words and gestures of non-actors.  The many, often awardwinning productions that GMP have mounted across the world between Glad and The Foolish Young Man are, amongst other things, a rebuke to mainstream theatre, which has largely failed to do artistic justice to the casualties of social and political oppression, breakdown and marginalisation in contemporary society.Perhaps the most visible of these casualties, thanks not least to inflammatory coverage in much of the media and self-serving rhetoric from the government, is that group often labelled as ‘young people at risk’.  Usually this is shorthand for ‘at risk of (re)offending’ – that is, young people heading for prison unless something is urgently done to prevent them – but more broadly it can refer to what we might otherwise call vulnerable young people facing risks ranging from physical abuse and drug addiction to – that unfashionable term – poverty.  In a political culture where a stated commitment to tackling the causes of crime has conveniently been dumped in favour of a ‘populist’ policy of simply increasing the penalties for committing crime, a production like The Foolish Young Man is something of a wake-up call.  If it were televised, it could be another Cathy Come Home.Too often, work that deals with such realities is shunted off into a comfortable siding marked ‘social inclusion’, as if its makers had intended simply to stick a band-aid on the problem rather than expose it.  In Jeremy Weller’s work, the bandages are off and we can see and touch the wound.

Introduction The turning point

A man becomes disillusioned by the effects success and money are having on his life. Tired of the lies and pretence, he sets out to discover some truths, to find something real. He opens his loft-style apartment to young people who are deeply affected by the harsh challenges facing inner-city youth; runaways who live on the streets, excluded young immigrants, a couple of kids who ‘heard there was a party’.  Turning both his and their lives upside down, his social experiment has unpredictable consequences. Blurb promoting The Foolish Young ManThe Foolish Young Man ran for five sold-out performances at the Roundhouse ‘Freedm’ Studios in Camden, North London, at the beginning of June 2006.  Directed by Jeremy Weller, the artistic director and founder of the Grassmarket Project, the play brought together a mixed cast of ten local young people, aged 14 to 23, some from multi-ethnic backgrounds, none of whom had never acted on a professional stage before.They were recruited in a variety of ways.  Most of the young men came via youth and drop-in centres, including New Horizons (Kings Cross) and Camden Youth Initiatives, as well as through direct street contacts, while the women, who were younger, came from a local pupil referral unit in Wood Green.  Contact was also established with the Genesis Community, the Teen Mums Group, Wood Green Camden Detached Centre (Somali Group), Brixton College and the Clean Break Theatre girls group.  As well as the Roundhouse production, the company initiated a parallel film project and ran a successful series of theatre workshops at Essex Pupil Support Centre.  They had begun working on the production six months earlier, in January 2006, with an artistic team that notably included David Harewood, an actor with a considerable track record with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre as well as in television and film; he commuted between this production and South Africa and the set of a major feature film, Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo di Caprio.  A series of initial workshops led to auditions at the end of March; rehearsals lasted a full two months.  During this period, the script was developed, with scenes devised from testimony and improvisation and then selected and ordered to create a script that followed a logical narrative.  The play was premiered on 1 June 2006.  The young people involved in the show no longer meet as a group, although several are still in touch with the Grassmarket Project and some working with the company on further productions – one (Jahmal Downey) has actually joined the board, as a trustee and youth advisor.Around 600 people saw The Foolish Young Man, though a few months later rather more glimpsed scenes from it in an absorbing hour-long BBC television documentary, screened in late October as part of Alan Yentob’s Imagine series; this examined how the production had been put together as well as its impact on participants and audiences.  However, in terms of theatre, even in terms of London fringe theatre, this was a relatively modest stone cast into the waters.  However, the ripples continue to fan outwards in ways that bear exploring, particularly by those interested in the future of theatre practice and the role of performance in engaging with young people ‘at risk’.The Roundhouse in Camden has had a long, intermittent history of showcasing innovative theatre and music.  Built originally as a vast shed where steam engines could be turned around, it has remained, in many other ways, revolutionary.  The latest incarnation of the venue has been ten years in the making, a process of rebuilding and fundraising driven by the ex-toy maker Torquil Norman, who wanted young people to have a place where they could see and work with great artists.  To celebrate its opening, De La Guarda were invited to present their phantasmagoric circus show Fuerzabruta in the main space, while the Freedm Studios, created out of the undercroft below as spaces dedicated to youth arts, were launched with The Foolish Young Man, the first original production by the Grassmarket Project to be seen in London.If this marked a turning point for the venue, open to the public in a way it hadn’t been since the heyday of the 1970s, it was a crucial moment, too, for the Grassmarket Project (GMP).  Founded in 1991 by Jeremy Weller, the company had taken its name from the setting for its first production, Glad, whose subject and script was the lives of the homeless people using the hostel in the city’s Grassmarket area.  That first show and those that followed each year at the city’s festival won six consecutive Fringe First Awards and glowing local press and television coverage in recognition of their groundbreaking approach to theatre. It also led to four commissions from German state theatre and numerous festival appearances there and in Switzerland, Denmark and Australia.The most crucial aspect of that approach was the director’s use of real people in the cast, alongside one or two professional actors.  This gave the company’s exploration of social issues – homelessness, youth offending, mental illness, the sex trade and so on – a very different quality from the other theatre on offer.  Real homeless people in Glad speaking about their lives on the streets of Edinburgh, actual inmates from a Scottish young offenders institution re-enacting their arguments and fights in Bad, former mental hospital patients reliving their breakdowns in Mad – a founding trilogy of startling dramas that then set a pattern of theatre-making here in the UK and, increasingly, abroad, in Europe, North America, Brazil and the Middle East.The Foolish Young Man – based loosely on an earlier production, Der dumme Junge, in Germany – was the latest in over twenty such plays, and it shared the same basic methodology.  The script was created out of what the young people told the company about their lives – how they coped with broken and dysfunctional families and managed to survive the dangers out on the streets of North London.  What was different about this production was not its conception or its reception – audiences were as moved and disturbed at this show as audiences have been elsewhere at GMP productions over the last sixteen years – but its significance in terms of the company’s artistic and financial direction.This was the first production to be awarded Arts Council England funding, welcome support to a company that had never had any Arts Council funding before, north or south of the border.  Equally significant, in terms of what it revealed about perceptions of the company’s work, was the fact that this money was drawn not from the Council’s theatre allocation but from its arts and social inclusion budget.  ACE has an ongoing national strategy to support arts interventions with young people at risk of offending or reoffending, so the focus of GMP’s new production seemed to the Council’s London office a particularly suitable case for funding.Having worked with casts of varying ages before, though many participants had been young, this was the first time GMP had worked in England with such young people – the youngest male was sixteen but the girls involved were one or two years younger, which meant that the company faced a new challenge, in the shape of recent legislation around the health and safety and the protection of children.  Having worked largely abroad for some years, GMP had a steep learning curve to climb, though this was not immediately appreciated by either the company or the venue.  The fact that GMP subsequently arranged post-production pastoral care for some of the young people, with Kids Company, and that it is now developing a number of new projects to feature young people’s experiences indicates that The Foolish Young Man may mark a turning point in the company’s artistic direction or at least a new focus in its development.Financially, GMP has lived hand to mouth for its entire existence.  Until very recently its director has not even drawn a regular salary (in summer 2007, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation awarded three years’ funding to cover this).  Staffing has been erratic and there is no office base as such.  The Foolish Young Man at the Roundhouse was modest in scale and its artistic quality was compromised by a number of factors, particularly the constant changes to rehearsal space and the lack of sufficient access to the venue itself prior to the first night, yet the production looms large in the company’s hopes and aspirations, as a finger in the wind.  Now that it has happened, can GMP come in from the cold?  Will Arts Council funding be repeated or maintained?  If it is, what are the implications of being considered a ‘social inclusion client’?  How best can the company meet its responsibilities towards young people in the future?  How can the coverage given The Foolish Young Man by the BBC and the play’s impact on audiences, including professionals from the youth and arts sectors, be translated into financial support from other agencies, including charitable trusts and sponsors?  And so on.One purpose of this report is, therefore, to explore the implications of this turning point in the fortunes of a company that is, virtually, unique in its radical approach to making theatre and to working with people on the edges of our society.

Defining the project

It is difficult to pin down exactly what kind of theatre Jeremy Weller and his company represent.  Some might define it as ‘theatre with a social purpose’.  Jeremy’s long and consistent history of using the theatre to draw public attention to marginalized and oppressed lives would bear this out.  This interpretation of GMP’s work also seems to be borne out by the fact that funding – and fundraising – is currently predicated on broadly ‘social inclusion’ goals and claims.From this perspective, the production of The Foolish Young Man might appear to be an attempt to see how far young people excluded from full citizenship through personal, social and economic disadvantage might be brought back into a positive engagement with their own lives and therefore with the rest of society through the process of making theatre.  The interest to other theatremakers would, therefore, be to see how far mainstream theatre practice itself might benefit from realising this potential to ‘change lives’ and transform people.  Jeremy’s avowed campaign as an artist, however, is for truth not for practical social solutions.  Like many artists, he is a man of contradictions – journalists have often remarked on the contrast between Jeremy’s ‘public school’ accent and his unselfconscious empathy with the most abject members of society.  He not a typical social worker nor a political campaigner.  Bill Hare, Professor of Art History at Edinburgh University and an old friend, says of him:Jeremy does get slightly irritated when attention focuses on the social questions that his productions raise, because he thinks of himself as an artist, not just a kind of social reformer.The latest in a series of television documentaries and reports on GMP over the years since Glad took the Edinburgh Festival by surprise, Alan Yentob’s Imagine programme was warmly supportive of the company’s ethos and unequivocally upbeat in its evaluation of the production, focusing, as it did, on the positive steps the young people had taken since participating and performing in it.  However, it largely neglected the more profound methodological aspects of the artistic process leading up to this happy ending in favour of a more conventional trajectory, where troubled young people are transformed through their involvement in an arts project – a psychological variation on the rags-to-riches scenario.  True as far it goes, but missing something crucial.For Bill Hare, Jeremy is both ‘blessed and cursed’ by the media.Jeremy is good copy – he’s very photogenic and he’s got a great personality and he works in very controversial areas.  He is featured fairly regularly in journalistic publications and on television programmes, but they tend to say the same things all the time.  These are highly inflammable topics that he focuses on – whether it’s the recent work with economically deprived communities within London or the Bosnian crisis in the 90s or the Jewish-Palestinian conflict – so he does attract a lot of media attention.  While this is obviously a good thing in one way, by going only for the kind of obvious, sensational aspects of his work, its serious, critical and intellectual dimension tends to get forgotten; Jeremy’s desire to be taken seriously as a radical artist tends to be overlooked.How far Jeremy is responsible for this situation is hard to tell, given the different pressures he is under to satisfy public interest, draw in audiences, justify funders’ investment, highlight the relevant issues he has been researching and presenting and so on, all in the same interview.  There is little time left, perhaps, to argue himself out of the is-it-art-or-is-it-socialwork binary.In truth, despite the recent (and very welcome) funding of GMP, presumably as an exemplar of arts and social inclusion practice, the company has no overt social justice agenda and works in a very different way from many in this field.  It is a kind of theatre where the notions of exclusion and social justice are crucial but intrinsic to an artistic vision.  Jeremy is unapologetic about striving for both artistic and social goals in the company’s work, seeing no division between them.The Grassmarket Project aims to achieve a particularly raw kind of authenticity, where people speak their own truths in their own voices.  By bringing ‘real people’ on stage, it seems to court comparisons with so-called ‘reality TV’; even some who support the work see a parallel between the two.  However, nothing is likelier to bring down a hail of invective from Jeremy than such a comparison:

My work has nothing to do with reality TV.  Reality TV is cheap TV: stick cameras on a space, get people to act like arseholes, edit it up and in 200 hours you’ve got a television programme.  The Grassmarket Project is about constant refinement in searching for the truth.  What is the identity of someone?  What do they think?  What do they say?  What do they want?  Who are they?  Endlessly asking: What did he mean when he said that?  That sentence there?  Was it true, or do you think he means there that he’s missing his father?  Or does he mean that he wants to find a father?  Or has he given up?  Is he just angry?  Does he hate all men because they remind him of his father?  Or are the police like his father and that’s why he hates them?  And if you sit for hours doing that and then someone says oh, it’s like reality TV, you’d just want to slap them, wouldn’t you?

Almost as vehemently, he resists attempts to theorise his work or academic claims that the Grassmarket Project is, for example, a variant of Brecht’s theatre practice or Boal’s, yet he is a fervent disciple of existential writers and film auteurs, such as Camus and Bresson, and is a former student of the influential radical Polish theatre director, Tadeusz Kantor.  In terms of his personal working relationships, he can appear at times to be an unreconstructed male of the old school, yet he freely admits to a dependency on female collaborators who play a central part in shaping his productions.  Perhaps most strikingly, he is a theatre director who claims not to be particularly interested in theatre.  The Grassmarket Project is his gauntlet thrown down to the established theatre world, challenging settled ideas about artistic authenticity, acting and actors, scripting and improvisation, audience and the fundamental purpose behind ‘putting on a show’.It is, therefore, a political project in the widest sense.

The purpose of this report

From time to time people meet me and tell me that they saw the original production of Mad and they’ll remember the year – 1992.  There’s this amazing little moment where you go: ‘Wow, were you in that audience?’  And you can’t really say any more than: yes, you were there, you were acting in it and wasn’t it magical?  That’s what it was – magic was created in that year when Mad was first performed. Naomi Seekings, actor and directorEver since the initial production of Glad at the Edinburgh Festival in 1991, the impact of this work has been recognised by participants, by audiences, by critics – and by artists such as the late Sarah Kane, playwright, who wrote:It changed my life because it changed me; the way I think, the way I behave. If theatre can change lives, then it can change society.It is something of a surprise to discover that, other than some unpublished academic research, no major analysis of the company’s work and ethos has been attempted and that its impressive body of work remains largely unrecognised in the theatre sector as a whole, despite Jeremy’s own proselytising – he has, for example, given lectures to theatre students at Kings College, London and Reading University – and occasional advocacy amongst academics who have witnessed his work, like Katja Riek at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance in Glasgow.As the Grassmarket Project moves towards the end of its second decade of activity, an assessment of its pioneering work is well overdue, not least given the current climate of interest in and support for arts and social inclusion work at government level as well as among artists and arts organisations and their local funders.  One interesting straw in the wind is Jeremy’s current discussions with RADA, which is apparently keen to introduce more ‘reality’ into theatre trainingThis report is a start toward that necessary assessment.  Begun as an evaluation of The Foolish Young Man, my brief has since expanded to explore and analyse more fundamental questions than would normally be dealt with in an evaluation – about the significance of GMP’s work as a whole in terms of its impact on participants’ lives, on the audience and the wider world and theatre itself.  In order to investigate these three broad issues more fully, I am taking into account the company’s earlier work, including its international productions, and have interviewed people who have worked with and who continue to work closely with Jeremy.I hope, therefore, that the readership for this report, which might be considered a pilot for a more comprehensive study, will include not just those people involved in working with young or other people ‘at risk’ through the arts, but those working in or training for the theatre and members of the audience – which, in a sense, includes everyone concerned with the current social crisis that is most vividly exemplified by the crisis amongst our children and young people.

Section One Changing the world?

This is 2006 and this is London. The play is about a guy who is bored with life and who is asking questions:  What do I feel?  Where am I in relation to other people?  And the ‘others’  – who are they?  What do they feel?  What are their lives like?  And he’s a rich guy, he’s successful, but it’s also asking what that success means for him, because he’s kind of isolated.  It’s a portrait of a society in which success is measured by what we have and who we are is based on our power – but who exactly is he, what exactly can he do?  I think the young people want to make contact with him and he wants to make contact with them, but it’s a question of whether that contact is possible.  If it’s just a set of assumptions meeting a set of assumptions, can real human contact be possible?  It’s not really a story, it’s a question: What happens if we meet the ‘others’? Jeremy Weller

Obviously, I want to go out and impress them.  I want them to go out saying, I didn’t know people lived like that.  I want to touch people, obviously.  These are real lives, not about people going every day in their big car to big work and sitting at their big desk in their big chair and then going back in their big car to go shopping with their big money and then going back to their big house to sleep in their big bed.  That’s all they know, isn’t it?  Once in a blue moon, they might get robbed – but nothing that can’t be replaced, it’s all insured anyway. Feras

Running, not forgetting

As it to demonstrate that the roots of the political lie in the personal, the trajectory of Jeremy’s own early life reflects and to a large degree illuminates the contradictions and paradoxes of his current work. Born in Wokingham in Berkshire at the end of the 1950s, Jeremy soon learned to live peripatetically, thanks to his stepfather’s propensity for getting into debt and trying to evade the consequences. Endlessly on the run with his family, Jeremy’s home was never fixed. Today, he carries much of his life around in a small suitcase (it would count as hand luggage); opening it, he finds his rehearsal notes alongside his gym kit. He owns a nice Edinburgh flat but he’s rarely there. His company shifts from Glasgow to Kosovo, LA to Copenhagen, Sao Paolo to Palestine, a regime that can be only partly explained by the need to ‘follow the funding’.
This moving on from place to place and production to production is not, however, simply a habit. It is not so much that Jeremy is driven to reproduce that internalised sense of uprootedness, but more that he is making an active, even obsessive choice to pursue the demons created by that early life of ‘terrible poverty’. Talking to him about the challenge that artists from more comfortable backgrounds face in engaging with people who are in one way or other impoverished, he agrees that it is ‘hugely difficult’ for them: ‘No one wants to slum around in it, because it’s shit. There’s nothing ennobling about it.’ He cites Dickens, another favourite writer of his and something of a role model:

As a child of eight or nine, he works in a boot-blacking factory. What the fuck does he see in that? He doesn’t see anything in it. He’s running from it but he’s not forgetting it. And I’m the same. Because that kind of experience gives you a responsibility – a responsibility to tell what you know and to bear witness, not to deny and distance it all.

In this reading, Dickens fulfils the duty of those who have suffered privation and exploitation to bear witness, in his case through the novels and their often savage critique of Victorian society. Jeremy’s attempt to put such horrors on stage can be seen, similarly, as a refusal to forget his own experiences and the wider social injustices they stand for. In this respect, he is a more successful version of David, the ‘foolish young man’, whose own ‘staging’ of distressed lives ultimately only serves to distance his own experience from that of the young people.
Although this is not directly articulated in the Roundhouse script, David’s selfmade success, embodied in the inanimate form of his smart apartment, can be seen as a triumph of his ‘running’ from the past – which could encompass the history of enslavement as well as his own personal origins. What he seems dimly aware of at the start of the play is that he has also forgotten that past in some way. The potential for a fall into social failure, presumably even greater for someone already marginalized by white power structures and ever struggling for recognition, is now made flesh by the waifs and strays he takes in.
By the end of the play, David has recognised what these young people represent to him personally: a ‘remembering’ he would rather forget. This is most evident when Jahmal gives his heartrending account of his own racial and sexual abuse as a young man of colour, which moves David to tears. At this critical point, empathy and recognition seem possible but David ultimately refuses them, declaring that ‘I am not your father’. By running and not bearing responsibility, he becomes, as Luke warns him at the end, a ‘marked man’ – as Cain was marked by God, cast out as a fratricide. This is a severe judgement; as one audience member remarked, David’s is a tragic fall that unfolds ‘in true Shakespearian fashion’: hubris rewarded with the promise of a violent death.
David’s initial motivations seem mixed. Partly, he has a simple, if misguided hope that these new relationships will be stimulating. Having surrounded himself with the trappings of material success, he is dimly aware that something is missing in his life, which we might call human intimacy. As a paid-up member of a society that stereotypes and exoticises its ‘others’, he is also titillated by taking such a risk, as if he were conducting a social experiment of some kind with these young strangers. Luke clocks this immediately, though comically misinterprets what kind of thrill David is after.
As David discovers more and more disquieting information about these young people’s lives, he senses another role he might begin to play, as a benefactor. Although by no stretch of the imagination a typical ‘do-gooder’, David does share some of the do-gooder’s unearned sense of confidence that they can handle the problem. He believes that he can offer these young people something of an example, as a self-made black man with material wealth and a good social position. His mistake is to assume that material things are all that is needed to satisfy these young people’s needs.
He is, however, quickly disabused of any such charitable instincts, ultimately recoiling from the social truths he is exposed to as well as from the immediate dangers these young people represent, with their sudden bouts of violence and their drug abuse. As Jeremy bluntly puts it, he is:

Someone who thinks he’s Jack the Lad.  I can handle this, this is fucking nothing.  And in the end he ends up crying on the ground like a baby.  Because the reality that he’s removed himself from is far too complex to handle

And, at the point when his mastery of the situation is finally demonstrated to be illusory, he steps back from the brink and refuses to save them.

The world that the kids brought to him was all about emotion and pain and the things that have been done to them.  And they said to him: I was abused, my mother didn’t love me, I’ve got nowhere, I’m homeless, I’m an illegal immigrant.  Help me.  And what did he say?  He went – Well, here’s ten quid.  I’m not your dad.  Get out! And you know that’s partly how society responds to things. Jeremy

Asking questions – or providing answers?

Jeremy’s struggle has been to discover how he can best ‘not forget’ what he is running from. In refusing to disown his personal experience of family breakdown and in seeing clearly how those same fissures run through entire communities and cultures and how they can be traced back to one overriding injustice – the profoundly unequal distribution of society’s resources – Jeremy is faced with a choice bearing witness or taking action, between the role of the social critic, asking questions, or that of the social reformer, providing answers. That dialectic is made flesh in the outsider figures in his plays, who act as catalysts or lightning rods for the drama that unfolds around them.
Not all these figures are solipsistic fools, like David. In some, the wellmeaningness and desire to take ameliorative action is far stronger. Naomi Seekings, an actor who has led several GMP productions, played one such would-be campaigner in One Moment, a play set in an old people’s home:

I played this idealistic social worker who basically wanted to foment a revolution amongst the old people – I felt their unhappiness and I wanted to stoke the fire, as it were.  I came across as a naïve, idealistic troublemaker.  My intentions were good but they hadn’t really been well thought out.  I was the one who created the revolution but who didn’t quite know what to do with the mess.  Didn’t know quite how to clear up.

In other plays, this failure takes a more extreme turn. The journalist who moves between Jewish and Palestinian speakers in De Andre (The Others) cannot ultimately contain the contradictions he is presented with, far less resolve them.
This play begins with the journalist in a room in Denmark, which becomes a room in Ramallah in Jerusalem and, finally, a room in an asylum. On one side of this room, fenced off, like the West Bank, are a group of Palestinians, on the either side a group of Jews. Jeremy describes the action:

They’d come into his room and he would film them and talk to them. Then he’d turn to the audience and say: I don’t know what to do. One of the Jews would come and say: You don’t understand the history of Israel. And then a Palestinian would come in and say: What the fuck did he say about Israel? My olive groves have been taken over – they bulldozed them. These were all real people. All real stories. And it ended with the room getting smaller and smaller until the journalist was broken down and it became his room in an asylum. It was literally a heart-breaking play. Hard core.

Particularly hard core, as the actor was in fact Georg Larsen, an awardwinning documentary film-maker, who had indeed ended up in a psychiatric ward and whose story formed the play’s central narrative.
Similarly, the horrific revelations in Soldiers reduce another journalist to an emotional wreck; this had a direct and disturbing parallel in real life when someone working closely on this production could not cope with the surreal experience of working with actors who confessed to killing innocents while chatting amicably over a quiet coffee.

That production was a nightmare. She had a breakdown afterwards. I think that happened because her idea of right and wrong had been completely broken down so that, by the end of the play, the moral framework by which she lived her life had collapsed.

Ultimately, answers are not provided by these individuals, no matter how committed or uncommitted they feel to putting things right. In the end, they are overwhelmed by the social crisis erupting around them. It is tempting to speculate whether each of these observers are, in some sense, a version of Jeremy himself, aghast at the human tragedy on display and vicariously taking on the role of witness, confidante, campaigner, reformer, finding each somehow inadequate but pushing on again and again to confront more chaos, more horror.
Although he admits to liking the idea that his plays might have an impact on social policy, Jeremy seems to have discounted having any direct influence on the way things are run. He prefers to describe himself as an artist simply pursuing the truth about the world and is diffident, even dismissive about his role as a social campaigner.

I always laugh when someone assumes that I must be fascinated by social inclusion policy!  I have absolutely no interest whatsoever.  I do have an interest in what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, because I think that it is an investigation into life.  I do have an interest in the truth. I can’t say I’m driven by social reform or changing society.  I am driven by a need to understand society and deliver what I understand back to society.  But I don’t intend to change society, because I don’t have, nor will I have any power to do that.

Yet, others close to the work believe that Jeremy is an artist who, unconsciously or not, really does want to transform the world.

If you want to have a better, stronger society, and if you have a moral and social conscience, as Jeremy has, and if you are an artist, you want to change the world.  You want to show an audience emotions and stories and lives that they haven’t seen before.  You want to push them a bit and make them listen to those people who have been silenced. Jenle Hallund

This notion of making the voiceless heard – or the invisible visible – is critical to understanding Jeremy’s response to the sense of helplessness that afflicts the outsiders in his play, whether they are surrogates for him, stand-ins for
the concerned middle-class theatre audience or representatives of ‘mainstream’ society as a whole.

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